New Zealand is a polite country. Their rising star, Paul Maseyk, is anything but. But only when it comes to work, otherwise, face-to-face, he is seductively charming. So the work takes one by surprise. And that is not all. One Pot Wonder at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (Dunedin, New Zealand, July 12 – November 30, 2014) was a delightful provocation on so many levels, particularly because no artist in their right mind would choose that title for their work.
Above image: Paul Maseyk, My version of a greek tankard, 2005; ceramic, slip, and glaze. From the Simon Manchester Collection, Wellington.
Maseyk appropriated a fear that everyone within contemporary ceramics feels and then rebutted it in his eclectic mix of vessels and content. He extended even more obliquely into painting, where (surprise, surprise) he is an abstract minimalist. Two local reviews at Eye Contact Site and Critic are both revealing.
Curator Lauren Gutsell makes sense of the paradoxes:
Geometric pattern, bold colour, intricate detail, popular culture and historical imagery, anatomy, art historical references, erotica and autobiographical details – these terms, in a multitude of combinations, can be used to describe the unique practice of one of New Zealand’s most distinctive and highly skilled ceramists.
Since graduating from Wanganui Polytechnic in 1997, Paul Maseyk has become renowned for his use of daring sculptural forms, personal narratives and complex surface illustration. Paul Maseyk: One Pot Wonder highlights these techniques by bringing together a selection of key works which span close to a decade. The title of this exhibition is taken from the largest work that is singled out and displayed on Level One of the Gallery; at over two metres high this monumental structure, a wonder to behold in itself, hovers above the exhibition and beyond. It is one of the six new commissions the artist has generated for this exhibition.
While the materials Maseyk uses remain relatively constant, including terracotta and white clay, slips, clear glaze and acrylic paints, the divergent aspects of his practice are always apparent. St Paul, the cowboy and King Dick venture out to see the sights is a work that was created during a residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Montana. Here, Maseyk has fused autobiographical references from his time in residence with famous American imagery. The detailed drawing that embellishes this pot is also influenced by the ancient Greek tradition of highly adorned vessels. Commando Maseyk versus the Zig-Zag man and Portrait of the artist on a young horse are further examples of what has become his signature style – fine lines, extreme detail, matt finishes and classical Greek forms. In contrast, the Rainbow series, appropriately named due to their colour palette, are glossy and solid blocks of colour employing the use of automotive paints. The titles of his works, including Check-mate! and Sweetbreads, act as descriptors to their content; at the very least they provide the viewer with verbal clues, woven with irony, humour and witty wordplay.
Maseyk’s work is unique in content and form, where the surface of the ceramic is treated as a canvas. As a material, the use of slips, or slipware, is an old English tradition that utilises liquid clay. While the surface of a pot can be dipped in or brushed with slip, it can also be stained with colour pigment becoming a paint in its own right. This material dries almost instantly and allows little room for error; highlighting the skill taken to create contrast, shadowing and tone. While there are common elements that can be seen linking even the more disparate three-dimensional objects, Maseyk’s practice is continually evolving. He simultaneously tests, celebrates and highlights the rich materiality of clay, the expressive potential of its surface and the history of ceramics itself.
Paul Maseyk currently lives and works in New Plymouth, New Zealand. He completed his Diploma in Ceramic Design and Production at Wanganui Polytechnic in 1997 and has since worked with some of New Zealand’s best-known potters, including Barry Brickell and Ross Mitchell-Anyon. Maseyk, who is one of New Zealand’s most distinctive and highly skilled ceramists, has shown his work extensively at Avid Gallery, Wellington and Masterworks Gallery, Auckland. In 2006 Masterworks held the major, and highly anticipated, solo exhibition Start Spreading the News. Group exhibitions to date include Raising Boys; Andy Kingston, Paul Maseyk, Ross Mitchell-Anyon, Richard Parker, Martin Poppelwell, Hawke’s Bay Museum & Art Gallery, 2008; Collecting Contemporary, Te Papa Tongarewa, 2011; and The Obstinate Object: Contemporary New Zealand Sculpture, City Gallery Wellington, 2012. Maseyk received the prestigious Archie Bray Foundation residency in Montana, USA in 2008. His work is housed in numerous public collections within New Zealand including Te Papa Tongarewa, The Dowse Art Museum and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Maseyk is represented by Masterworks Gallery, Auckland and Avid Gallery, Wellington.
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